Ryan - Our Inspiration : Gibbie Stories
"The Most Important Thing I Learned in College"
As a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity at Southern Methodist University, I met and continue friendships with many truly exceptional gentlemen. The experience I am about to share is not a "me" but a "we" experience that that started when Ryan joined us and continues to this day. When Ryan pledged Pike we all knew that we were lucky that he chose our great fraternity, but little did we know the role that we would play in his life or the amazing impact that he would have on ours. Ryan's choice of fraternity was especially pleasing for his family as his father is a Pike Alumnus from the University of Arkansas.
Ryan returned for his sophomore year of college with some disheartening news. He had been diagnosed with Leukemia. What happened next was something truly amazing. Fraternities are so often stereotyped as being aloof, non-caring, drinking clubs with little redeeming function. What our fraternity did for Ryan and his family was the absolute antithesis of that stereotype. The fraternity rallied around Ryan and his family with such enthusiasm and support that the Gibson family chose to have Ryan's treatment and bone marrow transplant in Dallas so they could be close to the "Pike support network."
As Ryan withdrew from school the next spring to enter Baylor Medical Center and begin preparations for his bone marrow transplant, the Pikes were by his side. Not a day went by that Pikes did not come to see Ryan and his family at the hospital. Ryan's room and family were immediately showered with support, encouragement and cheer from the fraternity. Home-made chili, posters, pictures, autographed NHL hockey pucks, autographed basketballs, movies, you name it, the Pikes were trying to help the Ryan and his family feel at home as much as possible. The day that Ryan had his bone marrow transplant we threw a birthday party for him to signify his new chance at life. So big was this gathering that brothers had to take turns in the hospital room as we could not all fit in the room at one time.
As Ryan's recovery tuned into a battle and he was moved into intensive care, the brothers stepped things up as well. An emergency chapter meeting was held where round the clock visitation schedules were organized. He spent his 21st birthday on a ventilator but the brothers still came to celebrate for him. Not only did our bond with Ryan grow strong but his family became part of our extended fraternal family as well.
At the 1997 Homecoming banquet, a weak but leukemia free, Ryan and his family presented an inscribed gavel to the chapter in appreciation of the support and friendship offered through Ryan's ordeal. Mr. Gibson read a list of special, memorable things the brothers did for Ryan and his family through his battle. The list went on for well over 50 items and he finished it off with words to the effect of, "...just to name a few." Of the 150 brothers and dates at the house that night, there was not a dry eye in the house. The support for the Gibson family continued even after Ryan's death as 33 brothers traveled from 7 states to Arkansas to pay their respects to our fallen brother and his family.
While each of the individual acts and gifts played a small part in the Pike support network, the efforts as a whole were truly a magical experience to watch and of which to be a part. We are all truly better and more compassionate people for having been a part of it and each one of us learned the true value of Friendship, Love and Truth. Even after Ryan's passing, his family still professes the incredible positive part that Pike played in his battle. Each one of us feels a warming in our hearts when hear that and it makes us want to do more to help others. So now, at a time in our lives when many are vigorously focusing on themselves and their careers, we are continuing the lessons learned through our experiences with Ryan and his wonderful family by using our good fortune to help those that need some good fortune in their lives too. After all, we were blessed with knowing Ryan Gibson. He has become our inspiration and our guiding light.
While Ryan's passing was a very sorrowful experience for all of us, I can't help but think how lucky we all are. Of all the places on this earth that God could have put Ryan Gibson, he chose to put him among us. Nobody will ever be able to take that from us and for that we are all eternally grateful. When I reflect back on my college years my relationship with Ryan Gibson taught me the most important thing I learned in college.....the value and importance of great friends.